Ethiopian Culture / General / Immigrant Life

Don’t Call It a Blanket

Or a shawl. And definitely not a throw or a wrap. It’s just gabi. Gabby if you want to be fancy. The original organic wear before organic wear became fashionable. If you were born in Ethiopia, chances are it’s what you were caught in at birth. And depending on what it says in your last will and testament, it might be what you get packaged in for the one-way trip to the afterlife. The standard colour is white, at least as long as you keep it washed, but if you can’t or won’t, then it might be wiser to opt for one of an assortment of colours available on the modern market for the laundromatically-challenged. Design-wise it is deceptively simple: just four or so layers of sheets made from hand-spun cotton thread, with hand-twisted fringes. The layers are key. Stitched together in one lengthwise inner seam so that they can be lifted like the pages of a book, the densely woven sheets trap your (and hopefully your gabi-mate’s) body heat and return it back to y’all so you can focus on the business of creating your private little story. This technology was arrived at long before fancy sportswear manufacturers came up with it for ferenjoch who insist on jogging in double-digit sub-zero weather because apparently there’s nothing better to do in such a time. Long before that, the people of highland Ethiopia needed something between themselves and the bone-shattering mountain air, the better to crawl-climb sideways up those mountains on their way home, the better to snuggle up under in their birthday suits once there. Personally, I don’t find myself climbing onto much else besides escalators (and that only when they’re stuck) and my bed, but come wintertime I have a hard time falling asleep unless I feel that particular texture against my skin. Ideally, all my skin. Thanks to this magical length of white cotton fabric, now you too can sleep naked in the middle of winter!

I wish someone had witnessed the genesis of gabi and made a nice little story out of it, like the one about how that goat herd Kaldi discovered coffee. But until that tale is made, or made-up, feel free to share your gabi story in the comments section below, and here’s a very enlightening video on the many ways a man can wear a gabi, particularly if he happens to be in possession of a sizeable dagger 😉

And for the new generation who will be or were caught in standard-issue hospital blankets, it’s never too late to get them started on a life-long gabi addiction! Check out Little Gabies. The cutest stuff to come out of Ethiopia ever.

Oh, and if you have a thing for spindles

2 thoughts on “Don’t Call It a Blanket

  1. Couldn’t think of a gabi story, so please allow me to share the pic of my gabi:

    Degmo shout out to NeTela, Kuta, and the Kuta-like scarves from Geni Paradise.

    I’d heard that y’all’s weather has been colder than the poles. I wonder how practical the whole sleeping with just a gabi on would be 🙂

    ‘Wears his dagger on his gabi’ may be an apt euphemism for licentious behavior 🙂

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